SXSW 2018: A BLUEBIRD IN MY HEART Weaves a Redemptive, Gritty Crime Tale

Turns out “blue collar LEON” is a movie I wanted

The 2018 edition of the SXSW Conference and Festivals is here, and the Cinapse team is on the ground, covering all things film.

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Parisian novelist turned writer/director Jeremie Guez breaks onto the scene confidently with A Bluebird In My Heart. Adapted from a crime novel called The Dishwasher from novelist Dannie M. Martin, there’s an old school hard-boiled feel to this film, with a Euro-trash layer on top.

Ex-con Danny (Roland Moller in a star-making tough guy turn) lands at a low rent motel where he’s required to serve out his parole with an ankle bracelet. Quickly connecting in his own quiet and methodical way with motel owner Laurence (Veerle Baetens) and her troubled teen daughter Clara (Lola Le Lann out “Natalie Portman-ing” Natalie Portman), he starts doing fixer upper work around the motel. Soon he’s secured a dishwashing position at a local Chinese restaurant and it appears that things might be looking up for everyone. But as Clara’s relationship with her own incarcerated father begins to spiral, an act of violence derails all of their fragile hopes. Tension ratchets, blood is shed, dishes and wounds are washed clean.

All actors embody their characters fully and the simplicity of the plot is welcomed and classical. The pieces are put in place for an eventual collision course, but the film is in no hurry and the characters are all allowed to breathe. That isn’t to say we’ll get to know a whole lot about the specifics of Danny or Clara’s lives… but we’ll come to understand them through their actions and interactions.

With a contemporary score and an intimate camera style, A Bluebird In My Heart manages to get audiences invested and increasingly tense without ever leaping into unrealistic action set pieces or theatrical violence. What conflicts do emerge feel lived in and off the cuff the way most real-life violence likely plays out.

Moller’s Danny isn’t a superhero, he’s just a guy with a dark past trying to do right by the people who matter to him. Le Lann’s Clara isn’t a Lolita, she’s just a girl trying to find her way in a complicated situation. Baetens’ Laurence is a mother doing the best she can with the hand she’s been dealt. It’s a blue collar story through and through, and feels as grimy as the dish rooms and back alleys it takes place in.

There’s not a whole lot new here with Bluebird. Rather it’s clearly a throwback to simpler times and smaller character pieces. Great performances and old school tension are the key ingredients here, and they come together for a pretty deliciously intimate little crime thriller.

And I’m Out.

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